Decision Fatigue, pt. 1

Note: As I was planning this post, I was just going to write one on the subject.  As I was writing this post, I realized that there was no way to do that. I don’t mean to leave you all hanging, as there is so much more to say. It’s just that this writing turned an introduction instead of the whole story.

I think we often underestimate the effect of having too many choices.

I remember planning to go to dinner with my sister and her husband, years ago. I hadn’t seen her for a while, and I was looking forward to having a good chat.  The dinner wasn’t important to me; the visit was.

A little background on my sister, Betty.  She loved people, but she also loved bargains.  She would search for the best of everything, at the best price. She also loved coupons.  She collected every coupon she could find, even if she never used the product, because “someone she knew might be able to use it.  She also would worry about missing out on those great deals she loved so much. 

You can see where this going.

When I got there, my sister was still getting ready.  I asked her where we were going, and she handed me a stack of menus and her box of coupons. I had to decide the type of food we all wanted (I’m not psychic by any means), then go through the box searching for a coupon (that wasn’t expired), and then see if I could match it up with what we wanted to eat.  Trying to match 2-fer coupons for 3 people is not easy, by the way.  I was ready to just go down to the corner and buy take out for all of us. But, no, we had to use up the coupons.

We ended up eating late, being frustrated, and we didn’t have a good time together. But Betty was happy because we had gotten a good deal.

While not all of us count coupons, I think it’s safe to say that we’ve all fallen into some sort of decision-making trap and thinking that more is better.  It’s alluring.  We need to have choices. If we don’t then we we’ve missed out, or worse, have lost something.

I’ve been learning something different, these days. I’ve been learning about curating my life and my choices.

It sounds kind of austere, doesn’t it?

While doing my life “reset,” I’ve been looking at how I spend my days. Along with decluttering and rearranging, I’m thinking about how my day goes.  What I love, what I don’t, and do I need to make changes in how of the “don’t love” things are in my life? Can I make it better? I’m  still working on it. I haven’t reached that neutral point, that starting point. The place where I can say, “Yes, there nothing more I need remove.”

I’ve been thinking about all of the decisions and choices I make during the day.  Some are big; most are small. But a lot just really don’t matter personally to me that much, so I’m looking a deeper at those.

While clearing out my extra belongings I went through patches of time where I just couldn’t think anymore. I had so many leftover sentimental items in the family trunk that held a lot for emotion for me than I thought was possible.  I really thought I had gone through them years ago and that I was done. I put them all in a trunk, with the exceptions of a mahogany box that I use daily, A picture of my mom in a harness horse race in the 1940’s, a recipe box, and a small Swedish Dala horse. And of course, digitalized family pictures. 

And there, in the trunk, staying “safe,” those extra bits of sentimental stuff, have lived for 4 years.

When I opened the trunk in September, the past flooded back to me. There were some good memories but most of the feelings felt like heavy weights. I worked off and on dealing with that stuff for months. Sometimes, just looking at those things for a few moments before my mind would just shut down with thoughts of “it’s too much.”

The truth is that this was just a small 3’ x 2’ x 2’ trunk. In the grand scheme of things it’s not very large when you think about a lifetime of memories. But the amount of choices of how to handle these things seemed endless. My head spun with questions. Do I really want this? Is it valuable? Should I sell it? Does Chris want it? Can I donate it? Should I just keep it?

It was a Pandora Box of decisions.

And i was all I thought about.

Because it was all I thought about, the day-to-day necessary choices got pushed aside. The good daily habits of making healthy food and exercising were relegated to getting done if I felt like it. Other decisions were not always well thought out.

I felt like my big reset plan was going backwards and failing.

The holidays were coming up, as well, I had things to plan for that. I knew that I had to get a move on.  The easy reset plan I envisioned in my mind was slowly fading because I couldn’t decide what to do.

Too many choices and no decisions.

‘Till next week, when I tell you all how I got moving again (and I did!).


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